Only 2,001 Pettengill .44 Caliber Double Action Army Revolvers were supplied by Rogers and Spencer of Willowville, NY, to the U.S. government and they were issued to a number of cavalry regiments including: 3rd Michigan, 3rd Missouri State Militia, 5th Missouri State Militia, 1st Arkansas, 3rd Illinois, 3rd Kentucky, and 3rd Missouri Volunteers. This example is serial numbered 4140 on the butt and cylinder, with the number matching under the grips, and surfaced at an estate find in central Missouri. It has NEVER been on the collector market and came directly from the family of the original owner, whose name, unfortunately, could not be 100% confirmed.
The markings on the top of the frame are faintly stamped on the right side of the sight groove “PETTENGILL’S / PATENT 1856” and on the left side, “PATENT JULY 22 1856 / & JULY 27, 1858,” which is correct for a later production gun, reflecting C.S. Pettengill’s patent and an improvement by Raymond and Robitaille, along with “PATENTED / NOV 4, 1862” on the bottom of the frame, reflecting an improvement by Henry S. Rogers. There are also small US Army “WW” subinspector initials on the frame, barrel, and the cylinder.
The pistol rates absolutely untouched attic “good” in condition. The metal is a deep brown patina and generally smooth with salt and peppering overall. The top of the frame shows some darker staining toward the front and a little roughness on the right of the sighting groove affecting the word “patent.” The grips have a tight fit and warm brown color. There is a very visible US Government Army inspector’s cartouche stamped in the bottom of the right grip. The bottom of the grips show some small dings and just a little roughness around the edge. The thumbscrew to release the loading lever and cylinder arbor is in place. The nipples are not battered. The mechanics are good.
The initial December 1861 contract called for 5,000 of the double action .44 caliber revolvers with deliveries starting in 90 days, which probably seemed feasible since they had already produced a .36 caliber Navy or belt version. Tooling up and production problems delayed delivery even of a sample revolver until April and tests in May revealed problems: the double action considered slow and the revolver fouled easily, entirely locking it up. Improvements were made, but the Army reduced the order to 2,000 guns, plus the one sample. All 2,000 were delivered between October 20, 1862, and January 17, 1863, but only after taking into account about a 15 percent rejection rate. The Army turned down a chance to purchase more of them in March 1863 and then changed its mind offering a new contract in April for 10,000, which was signed in May. The pistol had already cost Rogers and Spencer a rifle musket contract, however, and they apparently had second thoughts, making no deliveries and focusing on their own .44 single action revolver.
This is an Army issued revolver that is VERY difficult tough to come by. It would fill a spot in a display of rare cavalry sidearms, especially one concentrating on units fighting in the west.
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